The spun sugar crowns are so ethereal, this dessert might be called Floating Clouds. The spun sugar puffs are the most challenging part of the dessert, and can be done ahead of time -- or deleted, if you wish to simplify. The compounds listed in the recipe are pastes, not purees, and are very concentrated. They are available from bakers’ supply stores and on-line sites. For variation, the meringues can be floated in a fruit sauce.
Before you start, take a wire whisk and cut off the lower looped portion, leaving long straight wires sticking out of the handle.
- Egg Whites - 6
- Sugar - 1/3 cup
- Raspberry Compound - 2 tablespoons
- Raspberry Juice - 1 tablespoon, reduced
- Pistachio Sauce
- Milk - 2-1/2 cups
- Sugar - 3/4 cup
- Vanilla bean - 1/2, split lengthwise
- Egg Yolks - 8, beaten
- Pistachio compound - 1 tablespoon
- Caramelized Pistachios
- Sugar - 1/3 cup
- Water - 1 tablespoon
- Fresh lemon juice - 1/4 teaspoon
- Pistachios - 3/4 cup, toasted
- Unsalted Butter - tablespoon unsalted butter
- Raspberry Juice - 2 tablespoons, reduced
- Angel Hair Swirl
- Sugar - 1
- Corn Syrup - 1/2 cup
- Water - 1/4 cup
To make the meringue: Cut six 3-inch squares of parchment paper or foil. In a large bowl, combine the egg whites and half of the sugar. Beat until frothy, then gradually add the remaining sugar while beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. Beat in the raspberry compound and the reduced raspberry juice.
In a large pot, bring water to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer. Place the meringue in a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe the meringue onto the parchment squares in 6 mounds. Lift a parchment square by the corner and place in the water, meringue-side down. Let the meringue poach for 3 minutes, then lift it by grasping the corner of the paper with tongs. Peel off the paper by pressing gently on the meringue with the back of a spoon or knife. Flip the meringue with a slotted spoon and poach on the other side for 3 minutes. It will begin to expand when it is done. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and let dry on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining meringues. Place all the meringues in the refrigerator to chill.
To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine the milk and sugar. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod into the milk, then add the pods as well. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pods with a slotted spoon and lower the heat to medium. Stir a large spoonful of the hot milk mixture into the eggs, then gradually add this mixture to the hot milk, stirring constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Immediately strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a medium bowl, stir in the pistachio compound, cover, and refrigerate.
To make the caramelized pistachios: Oil a large baking sheet. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice and cook over medium-high heat until the sugar starts to caramelize around the edges. Remove from heat, stir in the pistachios, and return to medium heat until the sugar is golden brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and raspberry juice. Pour the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan and separate the pistachios with a fork. Let cool.
To make the sugar swirls: Cover a work surface with newspapers. Place 2 long oiled wooden dowels, each 1/2-inch in diameter, 16 inches apart on the work surface so that they extend over the edge. Cover the floor under the dowels with newspaper. In the top of a double boiler over boiling water, combine all the ingredients and cook to 295 F on a candy thermometer, or until a small amount dropped into a glass of cold water separates into hard, brittle threads. Use a wet pastry brush to wash away the crystals that form on the sides of the pan; do not stir the sugar while it is heating. When the sugar has reached 295 F, remove from heat and let cool until the syrup has thickened to the consistency of thick honey. Using the cut wire whisk, dip the whisk into the syrup, then wave it quickly back and forth over the dowels. Thin sugar strands will spin off the whisk wires and fall across the dowels. Dip and repeat 3 more times. Lift the spun sugar off the dowels with your hands and shape gently into a loose 3-inch beehive of sugar strands. Cut off any straggling strands with scissors. Set aside in a cool, dry place. Repeat to make 5 more beehives.
To serve: Pool 1/2 cup of sauce into each of 6 cream soup plates and arrange a meringue in the center of each. Place 6 caramelized pistachios in the sauce around each meringue and crown each meringue with a spun sugar puff.